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What anime should the Celtics watch? (Part 1)


It’s off-topic time on CelticsBlog and writers are being given free reign to discuss things that are important to them. In today’s post, Andrew Doxy and Sam Sheehan will discuss the role of anime in the NBA and make recommendations to Celtics players.

”You can have our anime recommendations if you can find them. Doxy and I left them all in this One Piece.”

Sam Sheehan: As we continue to power through the off-season and fight the crippling emptiness that comes from no basketball, we are presented with an opportunity to address stories that may get lost in the shuffle of the regular season. This is the important stuff; the “outside the lines” tough subjects that require journalists with a delicate touch and an iron stomach. I am of course talking about the impact of anime in the NBA today.

While I’m being a bit facetious to soften the concept, Andrew and I are about to discuss cartoons for the duration of this post. there’s a small kernel of truth in that hyperbole. Most of the NBA is between the ages of 18 and 32, meaning they were pre-teen and teenage boys between 1997 and 2008. Growing up in that time frame means that your formative years coincided with the rise of Toonami.

Toonami was (and still is) a block of programming on Cartoon Network that was dedicated primarily to Japanese anime. Many of these shows were action packed and violent meaning that that it was the perfect draw for a “mostly boys, some girls” demographic between the age of 10 and 28 (strikethrough) 18. Carefully placed in the weekday 4pm-6pm slot directly following school hours, Toonami provided a direct line to watch cool explosions and fights between aliens to children who only had access to basic cable. Even if your parents wouldn’t let watch the other “adult channels,” this anime block provided some viewing that would capture the imagination of kids who wanted something more mature and complex than the standard cartoon fare.

I grew up in an isolated town in northern Maine that wasn’t exactly bursting with activities for kids outside of hunting and fishing. Being a soft, indoor child (hard to believe I grew up into a blogger) I religiously watched Toonami between 1998 and 2003 because it offered me something that was decidedly more cool than typical cartoons. I wasn’t allowed to stay up late enough to watch sports that weren’t afternoon football, and it gave me an opportunity to consume something that wasn’t the slow, goofy, and frankly condescending cartoons that offended my fifth grade intellect. I wanted to feel like I was watching something at least cooler and more adult, and watching something that was more complicated than Johnny Bravo was a part of that. It became a sort of checkpoint for me in how I viewed my own maturity as a 10-year-old.

My experience, it seems, is hardly isolated, as lots of NBA players that I (at least at first glance) have very little in common with show flashes of anime fandom. Jaylen Brown has posted snapchats of himself watching anime, Joel Embiid took in an episode of Dragon Ball GT before a playoff game, Steven Adams is on record saying he has neglected basketball film for anime, and rising NBA sophomore De’Aaron Fox’s twitter page is a love letter to various iterations of the Dragon Ball franchise. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but, in my mind, anime functions as a rough commonality of our generation, and experience that is more universal than many may think to kids who grew up in a certain social standing or means. Am I getting too carried away, Doxy, or does some of this ring true for you as someone who’s a half decade younger than me?

Andrew Doxy: I definitely agree, though I think we’re seeing it now more than ever because of the rise of nerd culture. Being a nerd is, in fact, cool now for reasons that go beyond the scope of this piece. It helps that influentials such as professional athletes are comfortable enough in their own skin to perpetuate nerd culture through their platforms. Several NFL players are also feeling comfortable enough in their own skin to display their love for anime.

This is really helpful to the anime community at large because it shifts the focus away from the weird, niche anime influences that have turned a lot of people off from the medium and more toward the insanely cool parts that are the reasons why you and I have loved anime for well over a decade now. And that’s anime, not cartoons, you monster. That distinction is one of the few things I will transform fully into an elitist for because otherwise, there’s no distinction between the beautiful art of something like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Courage the Cowardly Dog. There’s a difference, and I’m willing to engage in combat over this.

I don’t remember how I got into anime; it’s really just been a part of me for as long as I can remember. When I was 3 years old, I went to Haiti for a summer, and over there I was watching Dragon Ball Z in French. The thing is, I already knew what DBZ was before I got there, so I really don’t know how my love for anime started. I was there for the Toonami blocks that you described, but the period that stuck out the most to me was the Saturday night programming from around 6 PM to 10 PM, and that lineup had a mix of of anime (classics like DBZ and Rurouni Kenshin) and some of DC’s Animated Universe properties like Justice League. What I’m saying is that it was a realcooltime growing up.

As you mentioned, NBA players are starting to be right in that hotspot of kids who grew up during this era, so I think it will continue to be a huge part of NBA culture at least for the next few years before the Toonami generation disappears; although, anime in general is more popular, so it might continue to be a huge part of the culture within the culture we follow.

Therefore, it only makes sense that we throw some recommendations at our cultured Celtics sons to binge, especially now in the of-fseason before the season-long grind begins.

SS: We’ll start with Robert Williams III, the latest Celtics first round pick who has (unfairly in my opinion) been tagged with a reputation for irresponsibility after some issues with oversleeping. I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of Robert. Our pal The Riffs Man has dubbed Williams “Time Lord,” bringing up the counterpoint that Williams simply exists in a higher plane of existence wherein he is not constrained by the bonds of time, rendering adherence to its rules a trivial matter for him.

I’m inclined to agree, and it’s for that reason that I’m going to recommend an anime to Williams wherein he can empathize with the plot of the main character.

Steins;Gate is critically acclaimed anime that stems from a visual novel of the same name. It centers around a loose “lab” of friends who accidentally invent a machine that lets them send texts to the past. The plot builds to render the central character, Rintaro Okabe, desperately trying to manipulate time in an effort to stop various tragedies from unfolding, only for more unforeseen consequences to manifest. As a fellow warden of the quantum realm, I think Robert would like this take on time and the importance of its relativity, particularly given that he has been similarly misunderstood.

Would you agree, or do you think there’s an even better recommendation for the Celtics rookie?

AD: I’m gonna go ahead and suggest Cowboy Bebop for Robert Williams because of his overall demeanor. RWIII seems like a really laid-back guy who takes things at a flow unique compared to the others. Bebop is . . . well, it’s hard to describe what it is really. An actual quote from the title cards shown throughout the series states, “And the work which has become a genre unto itself shall be called: Cowboy Bebop.”

It centers around a group of bounty hunters, including the insanely cool and laid back Spike Spiegel, combating existential ennui and the perpetual state of being broke. It’s critically and popularly acclaimed as a pioneer in the anime medium, and it tackles a whole host of themes with a fun and engaging cast. None of the characters are *good* people that you’d want as friends, but they’re beyond entertaining as a cast to follow. There’s really no way to describe Cowboy Bebop beyond just watching it really. It’s its own thing, and I love it for that. Also, just look at how insanelycool it is:

On the court, we know what Robert Williams projects to be, but off the court, it’ll be interesting as we grow to know him over the course of the season. As of right now, through his well-publicized mistakes, he certainly is a unique character. In this, he fits Bebop perfectly. Speaking of unique, there’s no one more unique on this roster than Kyrie Irving. What say you, Sammy Shee?

SS: In the past I’ve compared Kyrie Irving to Doctor Manhattan, a private individual of substantial power with a philosophical flair. Kyrie is a thinker, and someone who has always taken opportunities to shift conversations from the subject of people and events to ideas. He’s become a household name thanks to his basketball skills, but he’s also stands out among NBA stars for his unique theoretical perseverance.

For these reasons, I’m going to recommend Neon Genesis Evangelion. Most of the show takes place in the familiar “big robots, big monsters” kaiju genre that was popularized in Japan by the Godzilla series, in turn driven by a fear of atomic weapons. The basic premise of the story is that the main character Shinji pilots a large weapon to fight off destructive beings called Angels, and eventually teams up with other pilots in increasingly, escalating battles. However, the show takes several twists in it’s path to a conclusion, and by the end, has turned into a psychological exploration that is hardly recognizable to its starting point.

What’s interesting about NGE, is its commentary on self-worth and loneliness, and that it slowly reveals itself as having a self-reflective and introspective focus that’s not immediately clear. I really think that Kyrie would enjoy it. I’m actually so confident in this recommendation that I’m going to declare it the perfect fit. However, you are welcome to try to top me.

AD: I see your point, and it definitely fits the outside perspective of Kyrie Irving that we see from a distance. However, from another perspective, I do remember him doing an interview recently for Uncle Drew in which he stated that he loves musicals. He’s a big musical guy (BREAKING: Kyrie Irving loves musicals; wants to be closer to Broadway. Could this be what pushes him to the New York Knicks??), so my recommendation is going to pander to that a little bit.

While there are countless and numerous idol and musical shows, especially in today’s “best girl” culture, I’m going to stick with an instant classic: Your lie in April, known in Japan as Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso. This story follows a young middle schooler who has been a piano prodigy from as early as he can remember. His terminally ill mother worked him excessively hard to be the very best. However, because of this, some resentment grows, and when his mother passes away, Kouhei (the main character) quits playing piano.

A few years later, he meets a mysterious girl who plays the violin and aspires to inspire him to pick back up his craft and use his talents once again. Without spoiling anything, folks, this anime will make you cry. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you like and I don’t care what you’re into. My brief description doesn’t give it justice; it’s truly a beautiful story, highlighted by spectacular art and unbelievably moving music. It makes piano recitals look exciting, which is a feat in itself.

Kyrie’s love for the combination of music and storytelling would likely draw him in. He strikes me as a sucker for really beautiful stories, so I imagine he would love how the relationship between the two main characters develops as they progress through the 22-episode run.

Because I’m a cheater, I’m gonna offer a low-key second suggestion: Hinamatsuri, which has a case for 2018’s Anime of the Year award (according to me). Because I’m sincerely committed to being a cheater, I’m going to offer two clips. The first is action-y:

And the second is funny…-y:

Irving really seems to cherish his daughter, and this story follows a high-level Yakuza thug adopting a middle school girl with psychic powers who appears suddenly in his apartment. Don’t take my word for it; try it. It’s hilarious and heartwarming at the same time. Hinamatsuri is quite good.

SS: I haven’t seen either of those, but I have such confidence in my answer that I will continue to endorse my pick. Comparison is a thief of joy after all.

AD: Marcus Smart, as a champion of bloodsport (may or may not be true), looks like a guy who gets hyped to power fantasy anime. We should probably take a look at what we can put him on to next.

I had been staunchly against Attack On Titan from the start because a few years ago I watched the first episode and hated it. A few people on Twitter urged me to give it a second chance, and that’s one of the better decisions I’ve made recently. AOT is a true thrill at basically all times. I haven’t felt this excited binging a show for a long time. It was a humbling moment for me, the guy who usually recommends anime, to receive this recommendation from something I was so staunchly against. To be fair, that first episode really isn’t good.

But AOT is the right amount of edgy. It perfectly balances the emotions you’d expect to see with characters as a part of humanity that faces extinction against these behemoth humanoid creatures that eat humans for, uh, fun. Fight scenes are beautifully choreographed, it’s well animated, there’s some phenomenal camera work, and the interpersonal relationships are fleshed out really well outside of the main character, in my opinion.

Smart will never be *the* guy on this team, but he’s a more-than-critical component of the supporting cast. AOT fleshes out its supporting cast beautifully and gives them all important things to do. It’s a thematic match. As the Celtics’ edgiest player, Marcus surely would enjoy watching an appropriately edgy yet insanely cool anime such as Attack on Titan. What would you recommend, Sam?

SS: AOT is a great thematic match for Smart, I’ll agree with that. However, I’m going to go with something that might be a little less apparent at first glance and suggest My Hero Academia (Boku No Hero Academia). It’s a very straightforward story that takes place in a world where 80% of the population is born with a weird mutation called a quirk that gives them some sort of bizarre power. As a result of this, super-powered criminal villains emerge and, in turn, so do superheroes to stop them.

The story revolves around Izuku Midoriya, a boy who’s part of the 20% of the population that has no quirk, but he’s made it his mission to become a superhero in spite of that. Eventually, he finds a way to develop a quirk, but it’s one that requires tireless work and ruins his body whenever he uses it. In spite of this, Midoriya never gives up and frequently finds himself in situations where he has to take on a huge burden in order to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

I think Smart could find a kindred spirit in Izuku, as both have been written off at times for a clear flaw they find a way around (shooting), are willing to make bodily sacrifices, and can turn the outcome of a bout through their sheer force of will. On top of that, Marcus already has the agility of a superhero and would seamlessly fit into the world performing kip-ups after a huge fight or multiple backflips to dodge enemy attacks. Any closing thoughts before we take it to Part II?

AD: Watch One Piece and don’t be scared of the length/commitment. It’s about the journey, not the destination, and it’s objectively good. Additionally, all of our recommendations except for Neon Genesis Evangelion can be streamed legally using streaming services such as Crunchyroll, FunimationNow and Hulu. Please support anime legally! See you folks in Part II!

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